Memory as dance

14 November 2017

Review: im spiegel by LINK dance ◆
The Edith, Perth, 9 November ◆
Review by Varnya Bromilow ◆

It was one of those warm, windless Perth evenings…the kind we dreamed about last summer but that never actually came.  A motley assortment of people hovered outside WAAPA’s new performance space, a spiegeltent called (rather unimaginatively) The Edith.  It’s a fabulous venue – with its creaking wooden floors, booth-lined walls and gem-like windows, you feel like you’re inside an artwork simply by virtue of being there.

Dancers appeared among us, distinguishable mainly by their immaculate posture.  There was a slightly awkward chorus of young voices, talking about the unreliable ephemerality of memory.  We were led inside.

LINK Dance Company’s new work is called im spiegel and was created by guest artist Samantha Chester, a dance theatre maker who teaches in both acting and performing arts disciplines at WAAPA.  Chester devised this piece in collaboration with one of Australia’s foremost contemporary dancers, Natalie Allen, who hails from Perth.  Chester’s love of theatre is very much in evidence throughout – for a dance work, im spiegel makes serious dramatic demands of the LINK dancers, with mixed results.

A meditation on the nature of memory: Link Dance Company performing ‘im spiegel’. Photo: Sonja Simonato.

Allen kicked off the work with a visceral physicality, her blonde curls flying as she flung herself about the stage.  We sat around her in a circle, creating an intimacy that bordered on the invasive.  Allen is surely one of the most fearless dancers working in the contemporary space in the country – her willingness to hold nothing back, her complete abandon to the work.  She’s incredible to watch, her body careering through space but somehow under her complete control.  Around her, the LINK dancers seemed positively genteel…their technique exquisite but their surrender to the work still developing.

Im spiegel is a meditation on the nature of memory.  It’s a highly personalized work – the stories and memories of the dancers feature prominently.  Stylistically, it’s an exercise in diversity – there are moments of drifting grace juxtaposed against phrases of aggressive physicality.  Tonally too, there’s variance.  An undercurrent of melancholy pervades the piece but there are sweet turns of levity too.  A duet between Mani-Mae Gomes and Kishore Krishnan (I don’t need you! I don’t need you.) with its playful ambiguity is a particular highlight.  Gomes was one of the few dancers who seemed utterly comfortable in this very theatrical work…her sulky charisma lending a welcome confidence to proceedings.  Similarly, Caitlin Gilchrist’s sense of ease onstage marks her as someone to watch.

There’s something a little odd about watching these young things reflect on the drift of time…but perhaps that’s just me feeling my age?  Im spiegel is poignant and sincere and the technique is gorgeous to witness.  We emerged into the still night, 45 minutes later, Nick Cave still running through our heads…a fitting soundtrack for ruminating on the experiences that create our own histories.         

Pictured top is Natalie Allen. Photo: Sonja Simonato.

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Author —
Varnya Bromilow

Varnya Bromilow is a happy dilettante who has worked as a journalist, advocate, oral historian, teacher and train driver. She spent 15 years with the ABC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and The West Australian and enjoys writing fiction. She loves guinea pigs and the thrill of a good slide.

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